If you want to grow your small business, one way is to position it as a resource for other small businesses.
When you position yourself as a resource, you become invaluable and trusted. Money and sales should not be the primary motivator; if you develop a relationship that positions you as the expert, money will come, Brandi Neloms, cultivator and co-founder of Spring Blossoms Agency. Business relationships should be symbiotic. As a small business specifically, you don’t always have the resources to spend a lot of money on advertising your services. Instead, you have to rely more on the connections you make. Make sure that you’re thinking about what you have to offer just as much as you’re thinking about what you have to gain, she says.
It is a process Spring Blossoms Agency went through. Neloms explains why: Working in PR and communications, my sole purpose is to elevate the brands I work with, spread their messages and champion their causes. In order to do that, I have to become a partner; an integrated part of their business. That means our relationship has to extend beyond a handshake, a contract and billable hours. My clients have to feel comfortable in trusting that I’m not only an expert but that I’m truly invested in their success and not just my ability to profit from them. From the beginning, I welcome questions and provide honest feedback. I show genuine interest in their projects even if I’m not contracted to work on them. Even if a potential client decides not to use my services, I still check in on their progress because I care and I know the benefit of being an available resource, she says.
And the process can pay off majorly for your small business. Small businesses succeed best when they are niche players, offering deep expertise in a narrow band of services. Large client organizations often need a wide array of services; thus most small businesses cannot be all things to any one client, says Jim Smith, founder of The Executive Happiness Coach. But if I learn of a service my client needs that I do not offer and I can connect the client to an excellent resource, I am still providing value through my network and vice-versa — my colleague who knows of my expertise will refer me to business not in their own wheelhouse.
So how can your company do this? Heres how:
–Focus on cooperation and partnerships: Value community over competition. Together we’re better is not an empty saying. Sometimes, your best work will come through working with businesses that may appear to be competitors, Neloms advises. Surprisingly, you may come up with better ideas, better plans and be able to better service clients when uniting with someone who does what you do.
–Become an expert–and share your expertise. Create a media outlet such as a blog, online or digital magazine, video channel or podcast. Join Facebook groups where other small business owners hang out and contribute your advice to demonstrate your expertise and credibility.
–Get speaking gigs at relevant events. As a speaker, youre automatically considered a leader and expert, explains content marketer Katrina Fox, author of Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business. I set up VeganBusinessMedia .com, a multimedia blog providing success tips for vegan business owners and entrepreneurs. Fox herself started a weekly podcast, Vegan Business Talk, in which she interviews vegan business owners worldwide as well as shares vegan business news.
–Measure how much you are willing to offer. Give enough to prove your value, but reserve enough to monetize your value, says Neloms. Be generous with your advice with potential clients and produce content that shares tips and tricks (e.g. blogs, whitepapers, etc.), but reserve the big ideas and action items for paying clients. There’s a fine line between proving yourself as an expert and giving away your expertise for free.
–Be in it for the long haul. Focus on long-term relationships: not all business opportunities pan out immediately upon the first handshake. Be mindful in your interactions and focus on developing relationships that will lead to referrals and opportunities for years to come, offers Neloms.
–Give them just a taste at first. “I have frequently offered my services in a limited way to other business owners to give them a ‘taste’ of what I do. I have always been pleasantly surprised to learn how eager many of my “competitors” are to understand what I do and to share what they do, so we can each serve our clients best,”
–Generosity begets generosity. “When I refer business to others, I get referrals back, and we all grow. When I strive to hold on too tightly to business that is not in my niche rather than pass it on, referrals dry up,” explains Fox.